BENJAMIN BYARUGABA: Reimagining Emyooga Programme, Parish Development Model

Reimagining Emyooga Programme, Parish Development Model: Couldn’t Integration and Mainstreaming Deliver Better Results?


AUTHOR: Benjamin Byarugaba, a research and university don

Currently, Emyooga Programme and Parish Development Model are two of the most popular strategic interventions chorused by the President of Uganda and a cadre of his NRM government leaders. This is quite an encouraging development given Uganda is still categorized among the least developed countries in the world.

The two nascent programmes give hope to poor Ugandans in case they realize their aspirations respectively. However, while the emergence of both the Emyooga programme and the Parish Development Model are a timely opportunity, the hurried nature in which the two interventions are being implemented leaves a lot to be desired.

Indeed, rushed implementation might result in total miscarriage. In the traditional sense, “miscarriage” occurs when a baby dies in the womb or uterus before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Research indicates a pregnancy loss often results from a problem with the mother’s health. Yet it is scientifically proven, treatment or proper medical care helps prevent having a miscarriage. Unfortunately in Uganda, the nation seems to have failed to learn from past mishaps. The foregoing discussion seeks to prevent miscarriage of the Emyooga programme and Parish Development Model.

Conceptual Background

Emyooga, which refers to specialized skills enterprises or groups, is a presidential initiative that is aimed at wealth and job creation. Specifically, Emyooga programme seeks to facilitate the transformation of the 68.9% of households still stuck at subsistence towards the money economy and market-oriented production.

The Parish Development Model, on the other hand, is a strategy for organizing and delivering public and private sector interventions for wealth creation and employment generation at the parish level as the lowest economic planning unit.

Incidentally, both the Emyooga programme and Parish Development Model are in line with the NRM Government’s agenda of socio-economic transformation and their entire implementation, marks a major milestone in Uganda’s development journey including: Area-Based Commodity Development; extending the whole-of-government approach for development to the parish level in a consolidated manner as opposed to working in silos; and, localizing Vision 2040 and the National Development Plan for effective measurement and management of development interventions.

According to the statement presented by the State Minister of Microfinance on the Presidential initiative on Wealth and Job Creation at the 26th sitting of the 1st Meeting of the 5th Session of the 10th Parliament of Uganda; “the Emyooga programme was approved by Cabinet on 19th August 2019 to facilitate the socio-economic transformation of Uganda’s households, from the subsistence to money economy and market-oriented production, which is in line with the NRM Manifesto.

In addition, the State Minister of Microfinance emphasized that Emyooga was conceived to scale up direct support to communities through the establishment of various specialized funds/Emyooga-specific Apex SACCOS at constituency level, but with operations/branches at the parish level.

Furthermore, the Emyooga programme approach is believed to be consistent with the Parish Development Model, which was adopted in the National Development Plan three. Besides, the State Minister of Microfinance asserted that direct membership to the Constituency Apex SACCOs shall be by the respective parish groups/associations which, in turn, shall draw voluntary membership from individuals in the community engaged in a related economic activity (e.g. Welders, Tailors) or belonging to a specific special interest group (e.g. PWDs, Veterans), as applicable.” However, on the 22 Apr 2021; the Senior Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development addressed Parliament on yet another similar intervention: “the Parish Development Model.”

The Parish Development Model as discussed by the Minister of Finance is made up of seven pillars including Production, Processing and Marketing; Infrastructure and Economic Services; Financial Inclusion; Social Services; Community Information System; Governance & Administration; and, Mindset Change. Ironically, the goal and strategic implementation actions conceptualized for the Parish Development Model are to a greater extent, conceptually similar to the Emyooga programme.

For instance, the goal of the Parish Development Model just like it is for Emyooga, is socio-economic transformation for wealth creation and employment generation. One of the main highlights of the Parish Development Model is the planned revolving fund for each parish. This planned revolving fund strategically presents the same underlying tones as the Emyooga Programme. What seems to make the difference, are the characteristics of the beneficiaries. Nevertheless, when a more critical and in-depth diagnosis is carried out; the difference between the two interventions remains the same.

Resolving Conceptual Controversies

In line with evidence-based practice, it is important to solve the dispute and disagreements arising from the differences of opinions and values embedded in the conceptualization of Emyooga programme and the Parish Development Model. Indeed, the current reality prophesizes that the two interventions might be destined for total miscarriage because of “ill-conceptualization”. There is a good understanding of how poorly past related interventions performed. These include the Poverty Alleviation Project (PAP), Rural Farmers Scheme, Entandikwa, Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES), and even the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS).

Fortunately, the Report of May 2017 by the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries in regards to the implementation of the Operation Wealth Creation programme in Uganda provided a number of practical recommendations to improve the performance of government development interventions. Two of the most notable recommendations included the need for Government to put in place a legal framework for implementing the Operation Wealth Creation; and, the need for Government to revitalize cooperative societies.

It is therefore important to realize that, Operation Wealth Creation was also initiated as a Presidential directive just like it was for the Emyooga programme and Parish Development Model. indeed, the purpose of initiating the Operation Wealth Creation was to cure the inefficiencies that had arisen in the NAADS programme. Whereas the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries appreciated the work that had been done by the Government of Uganda through its Operation Wealth Creation programme; regrettably, there are many gaps that were identified and which required a lot of improvement if in case, Uganda was going to attain middle-income status in the foreseeable future.

Therefore, it can be assumed that the emergence of both the Emyooga programme as well as, the Parish Development Model were the purpose of helping to redeem the nearly failed past development initiatives inclusive to some extent; the Operation Wealth Creation. This probably could be the reason why the two nascent interventions were both initiated as Presidential directives, and not through the normal scientific policy development process. Hence, it is important to rally different key stakeholders that express commitment and willingness to provide positive criticism as a means of refining the Emyooga programme as well as, the Parish Development Model.

Providing constructive feedback would be the highest form of patriotism exhibited by any able-bodied Ugandan to their mother country, and this could become the most relevant contribution towards supporting the noble vision of the President of Uganda, in regards to Wealth and Job Creation. This level of participation demands that Emyooga programme and Parish Development Model are both respectively depoliticized, in order to have them saved from the usual miscarriage that has characterized previous development interventions including the Poverty Alleviation Project (PAP), Rural Farmers Scheme, Entandikwa, Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES), National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), and the most recent Operation Wealth Creation programme.

Learning from International Best Practices

Several developed and emerging economies could provide a good case for learning especially in regards to how Uganda should deal with controversies that most likely could lead to miscarriage of the Emyooga programme as well as, the Parish Development Model. There are quite a number of countries the world over that have developed institutional mechanisms for delivering interventions similar to Emyooga Programme and Parish Development Model, but in a more sustainable manner.  Indeed, a critical review of related literature indicates that, enriching lessons can be drawn from several institutional mechanisms from different countries. Specifically, however, there are two very successful case studies that can be analyzed in greater detail to inform effective learning for policymakers in Uganda. These include NABARD and MAGIC from India and Malaysia respectively.

NABARD, which is an acronym of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, is an apex regulatory body that is responsible for the overall regulation and licensing of regional rural banks and apex cooperative banks in India. It is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, Government of India.NABARD has been entrusted with matters concerning policy, planning, and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India. The bank is active in developing and implementing Financial Inclusion. As a Development Bank, NABARD is mandated to provide and regulate credit and other facilities for the promotion and development of agriculture, small scale industries, cottage and village industries, handicrafts and other rural crafts and other allied economic activities in rural areas with a view to promoting socio-economic transformation. Besides, and as a Development Bank of the Nation for fostering rural prosperity; NABARD seeks to promote sustainable and equitable agriculture and rural development through participative financial and non-financial interventions, innovations, technology and institutional development for securing prosperity.

MAGIC on the other hand, stands for “Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre”. It is a government agency under the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives in Malaysia. The mandate of the Agency is to realize the aspirations of the National Entrepreneurship Policy 2030, and to contribute to the evolution of Malaysia into an entrepreneurial nation. Also, MAGIC enables and supports the sustainable growth of entrepreneurship in Malaysia by helping entrepreneurs at every stage of their journey to collaborate with other government agencies, industries and stakeholders. However, in order to build the nation’s innovation and creativity skills as well as grow talent, MAGIC offers dynamic programmes and capacity-building initiatives. Besides, the Agency focuses on social entrepreneurship, aiming to drive the nation forward through community engagement, capability development and social impact measurement initiatives. Thus, purposively selected practices undertaken by both MAGIC and NABARD could provide a firm foundation for reimagining the Emyooga programme, and the Parish Development Model to effectively transition Uganda to middle-income status.  

Moving Forward

Leveraging from the successful stories of NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) as well as, MAGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre); Uganda could identify and adapt some of the best practices as demonstrated by the two case studies discussed above. In practical terms, findings could lead the country to demand that Policymakers take bold steps towards the amalgamation of most of the current related government development interventions. This amalgamation process in particular, would take the form of combining Emyooga programme, Parish Development Model, and Microfinance Support Centre Limited into a completely new entity, to house the combined assets and liabilities of the currently related government development initiatives.

Amalgamation would be the most appropriate arrangement because the entire three development interventions are government-owned and yet; all of them are focused on operating in the same business, but also, seeking to achieve the same development goal of socio-economic transformation for wealth creation and employment generation in Uganda. Ultimately, amalgamation of the Emyooga programme as well as, the Parish Development Model, and Microfinance Support Centre Limited, will help to reduce overall operational costs for similar development interventions. This is due to operational synergy but also, because the amalgamation of the three development interventions is likely to enhance the effectiveness of Emyooga Programme, and Parish Development Model respectively.

Therefore, the importance of institutional credit and entrepreneurship development in boosting rural economy has been clear to the Government of Uganda right from the early stages of the NRM assumption of power. Therefore, as was initiated in the case of Emyooga Programme as well as, the Parish Development Model; a Presidential Commission should be constituted to look into the very critical aspects of how the two similar development interventions together with Microfinance Support Centre Limited, can be amalgamated into a new entity. Additionally, the amalgamation process should greatly be informed by learning from the experiences of NABARD and MAGIC respectively. Besides, the Commission setup by the President of Uganda should work expeditiously and be able to include recommendations of how a unique development financial institution that is addressing the aspirations of both Emyooga Programme as well as, the Parish Development Model is to be formed.


About Author:

Benjamin Byarugaba is currently employed as a Lecturer in the Faculty of Business Administration and Management at Uganda Martyrs University. He can be reached on Mobile No: +256 777 704760 or +256 750 885589; Email: [email protected]

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